The key to #changingbloodtypes might reside in the #gut.

#Enzymessynthesizedbythegutmicrobiota can strip the RBCs of #sugarmoieties that #determinethebloodtype. This finding is important, because these sugars, or #antigens, can induce #devastatingimmunereactions when introduced into the body of a person without these sugars/antigens on their RBCs.

Previously, a few enzymes that can convert #typeBblood into #typeOblood had been discovered, but these newly identified enzymes are the first to transform #typeAblood to type-O. This conversion has always been the greatest challenge in the field.

Universal Blood

Everyone knows that type-O blood is the #universaldonorbloodtype. This is due to the fact that RBCs of individuals with type-O blood lack particular sugars/antigens on their surface. Therefore, individuals with any blood type can get a #transfusion with type-O blood without the risk of any #mismatchreactions. The high demand for type-O blood can be attributed to this fact.

In contrast, RBCs of individuals with A, B, and AB blood types express specific sugars/antigens on their surfaces, i.e., people with type-A blood can donate blood only to recipients with type-A or type-AB #bloodgroups, and people with type-B blood can donate blood only to recipients with type-B or type-AB blood groups. Removing these sugars/antigens from these blood types prior to transfusion converts all blood types into #universalblood; removing any risk of #adversereactions.

The How of the Methodology

Researchers identified these enzymes using a method called #metagenomics, wherein instead of culturing individual microbes the team simply #extractedDNA from the entire #gutmicrobiota, which is known to #breakdowncomplexsugars. The researchers then introduced small pieces of this DNA into E. coli, a commonly used bacterial strain. Bacteria expressing 20,000 different DNA fragments were tested against sugars mimicking A- and B-antigens. Finally, the study narrowed down to 11 possible enzymes that exhibited activity against the A-antigen, and 1 against the B-antigen. One of these new enzymes showed #robustactivity at varying temperatures and salt concentrations.

Where do we go from here?

Though this is a very promising strategy, this technique will have to undergo a lot of #clinicaltrails before entering the market. Researchers will have to ensure that all traces of the enzyme are removed prior to transfusion. That is to partly nullify the probability of the recipient’s #immunesystem interpreting these enzymes as signs of an infectious attack and reacting to them.

Furthermore, this technique doesn’t remove the problem of #Rhantigenmismatch i.e., it can’t generate fully universal blood every single time. As the Rh-antigen is a protein and not a sugar, a very different set of enzymes need to be explored in order to synthesize the true universal blood type: O-negative.

Practical Considerations

Work needs to be done to make this process economical. This process would be limited by the amount of blood that can be effectively transformed. In order to reduce the riskofspreadinginfectiousdisease, #bloodbanks never pool the #donatedblood. So, any blood that needs to be converted would have to be transformed one unit at a time.

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